If Dave Chappelle’s sketch comedy show and The Eric Andre Show are models for the effectiveness of exaggerated, over the top ridiculousness in making topics such as race, politics, and poverty palatable for the masses, then Sorry To Bother You is their cinematic dark comedy offspring.
Boots Riley with his directorial debut brings us a weird black hippie dystopia starring newcomers LaKeith Standfield (ATLANTA) and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok) who journey through a world of corporate exploitation for the means of economic progression.
Code-switching to successfully function and navigate through his new telemarketing job at RegalView, Cassius “Cash” Green finds the suggestion of using his white voice, advised by his co-worker, Langston (Danny Glover), a success as he becomes a “power caller,” despite clashing with his colleagues and anti-establishment girlfriend, Detroit, who plan to boycott the company and unionize for better wages.
Green finds this small professional trick comes with serious consequences once he’s invited upstairs to the executive suite. Soon, he realizes he’s employed by WorryFree, a manufacturing tech company offering lifelong indentured servitude – people signing away their rights and freedom for economic stability.
When Green learns that his cocaine-strung CEO, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), has a plan of mutating humans into equisapiens (half man, half horse), Lift promises Green $100 million over five years to be “the equisapien Martin Luther King Jr., one that “we create, that we control,” but what’s being sold as revolutionary turns out to be black exploitation.
Taking an activist approach to expose Lift’s experiment only further increases WorryFree’s stock value. This film takes the phrase “working like horse,” literal and gives a visceral depiction of what could come.
Set in Oakland, Ca, it’s no coincidence that the film centers around present-day micro-aggression, crippling financial situations, and immoral corporate politics rife with corruption.
It’s plausible this fictional world could become a distant foresight, but the subtlety of this dystopian world is based on one question: Are we, as Americans, willing to sign away our lives and sell our souls to companies like WorryFree?
What drew me in the most about this film was the exaggerated way in which Sorry To Bother You dealt with the inequities between the haves and the have nots by exaggerating the tradition of exploitation of the labor class in building streams of generational wealth that rarely goes to benefit those who work hardest to create it.
Similar to Get Out where people were literally auctioned off to enhance productivity and extend quality of life for others, this movie expands that conversation in a genre previously unoccupied by diverse voices.
Like cult classic films – Pulp Fiction and Donnie Darko, Sorry to Bother You is a thrillingly weird visual experiment.
It’s an exciting time for budding black filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of pop culture and sci-fi and creating these alternate universes where we can explore old topics through new psychedelic lenses.